Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, one of the staunchest critics of his party's dismal record on outreach to Latino voters, was accused of taking a more conservative position on immigration reform in his new book. Bush denies that his proposals are a shift in his position.
The book, Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution, is authored by Bush and Clint Bolick, and it hits store shelves Tuesday.
The Huffington Post received an advance copy and reported Monday that the book calls for a path to legalization, but not a path to citizenship, for current unauthorized immigrants. "It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences – in this case, that those who violated the law can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship," Bush and Bolick wrote.
The book does not totally rule out citizenship, but argues that unauthorized immigrants who obtain legal status should go through the same process as other immigrants to obtain citizenship, which would mean applying for citizenship in their country of origin, according to The Huffington Post.
An anonymous advisor for the Mitt Romney campaign was upset at the news.
"Where the hell was this Jeb Bush during the campaign?" the advisor told The Miami Herald. "He spent all this time criticizing Romney and it turns out he has basically the same position. So he wants people to go back to their country and apply for citizenship? Well, that's self deportation. We got creamed for talking about that. And now Jeb is saying the same thing."
When The Miami Herald asked Bush for a response, he emailed, "I am not advocating self deportation. Read the book."
Bush spoke about it again Tuesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." When asked if there was a change in his position, Bush said, "no."
"If you don't have a difference between a path to citizenship and a path to legalization," Bush added, "you're going to have a magnet going forward for more illegal immigration. ... So going forward ... if there is a difference, if you can craft that in law, where you can have a path to citizenship where there isn't an incentive for people to come illegally, I'm for it. I don't have a problem with that. I don't see how you do it. But, I'm not smart enough to figure out every aspect of a really complex law."
Later in the show he was asked again if he would support a comprehensive immigration reform bill that provided a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, without requiring those immigrants to return to their home countries to apply.
"I would support it if it didn't create an incentive for people to come illegally, at the expense of coming legally," Bush answered. "Today ... there is no path to citizenship for a majority of people that are trying to come to the country. If you say, 'get in line,' there is no 'line.' Or, the 'line' is so large it's a mythical line – 160 years for lines in the Philippines.
"So, if you change the system so that there is a legal path and you have a different term for people that are here already illegally, so that the incentive isn't to continue to have that process, then I would support that, for sure."
Bush has been a long-time critic of his party's lack of outreach to non-white voters. His wife, Columba, emigrated from Mexico and he has three half-Latino children: George P., Noelle, and John. He also helped found the Hispanic Leadership Network, a conservative outreach organization for Latinos.
When asked about the Republican Party's poor performance among Latinos on "Morning Joe," Bush said that non-white voters feel unwanted in the Republican Party, and the best indicator of that is how Asian-Americans voted in the last election.
"The best indicator of the 'canary in the coal mine,' if you will, is Asian-American voters," Bush said. "You have higher incomes, higher intact families, higher education, more entrepreneurship, and ... President Obama won 75 to 24 [percent], bigger than the Hispanic margins. Which is an indication of, not just tone, it's an indication of, kind of a 'stiff arm' that people feel. Whether it's fair or not is not really relevant, is it, in politics."